Linguistic Intergroup Bias: Evidence for In-Group-Protective Motivation

Anne Maass, Roberta Ceccarelli, Samantha Rudin

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Linguistic intergroup bias (LIB) is the tendency to describe positive in-group and negative out-group behaviors more abstractly than negative in-group and positive out-group behaviors. Two experiments investigated the role of in-group-protective motives, by varying threat to ingroup identity of hunters vs. environmentalists (Experiment 1, N = 160) and northern vs. southern Italians (Experiment 2, N = 212). Participants whose in-group had or had not been threatened described positive and negative behaviors of in-group and out-group protagonists. In both experiments, the LIB was greater under identity threat. Experiment 1 also showed that LIB was positively related to postexperimental but not to preexperimental individual and collective self-esteem. Results suggest that the magnitude of LIB depends on in-group-protective motivation and that in-group-favoring language may be functional to self-esteem maintenance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-526
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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